Nurse practitioners represent the lynchpin of the healthcare continuum. With a growing demand for advanced nurse practitioners, professionals with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) should consider enrolling in an online ADN-to-MSN bridge program. BLS data indicates that practitioners with a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) earn nearly $44,000 more than professionals with an ADN. Furthermore, advanced practitioners should anticipate a 16% higher job growth rate than individuals at the ADN level.
The traditional educational pathway requires ADNs to earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) prior to completing an MSN. However, colleges and universities often offer accelerated ADN-to-MSN bridge programs, which allow professionals to jumpstart their careers. Initial coursework explores core nursing information before students begin graduate-level courses. Many programs require only three years to graduate.
The sections below help you understand the admission requirements, program details, internships, and distance learning information typically associated with bridge programs.
1. University of Mary
A private Catholic university located in Bismarck, North Dakota, the University of Mary offers an online ADN-to-MSN program. This accelerated program enables registered nurses to earn their degree in just 20 months. Among ADN-to-MSN bridge programs, the University of Mary’s stands out for its focus on nursing leadership and management. Nursing students complete courses in healthcare administration, nursing research, and nursing leadership. The curriculum blends advanced nursing courses with classes from the business program and incorporates 500 hours of practical leadership experiences to build professional experience during the degree.
The ADN-to-MSN program requires a minimum 2.75 GPA from the applicant’s nursing diploma or associate degree from an accredited institution, a current RN license, and two letters of reference. The program offers full- and part-time schedules, both of which accommodate working nurses balancing school with their professional career.
The University of Mary holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
2. The George Washington University
Founded by an act of Congress in 1821, The George Washington University offers an online RN-to-MSN program for nurses with an associate degree in nursing. The part-time program takes three years to complete, and during that time nursing students earn a BSN and an MSN. In addition to online coursework, GW nursing students complete clinical hours at an approved local site during the MSN portion of the program.
GW ranks as one of the best ADN-to-MSN bridge programs online for nurses pursuing advanced practice nursing roles. The degree offers specializations for adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners, family nurse practitioners, and nurse-midwifery. Applicants must hold an ADN from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a current RN license. Prospective students must complete prerequisite coursework in human anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and nutrition. GW incorporates brief on-campus requirements that vary depending on the concentration.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) accredits The George Washington University.
3. California Southern University
A private institution located in Costa Mesa, California Southern University offers fully online master’s degrees in nursing including an ADN-to-MSN online degree. Students with an associate degree in nursing complete seven BSN bridge courses followed by MSN coursework. The curriculum covers advanced health assessment, population health, nursing ethics, and evidence-based practice. CalSouthern prioritizes customization by allowing students to choose five electives to concentrate their degree. The elective options include coursework in nursing executive leadership, healthcare administration, and nurse education.
The 57-credit program enables nursing students to complete their degree in less than three years of full-time study. Prospective students must hold an ADN with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a current RN license. CalSouthern conducts interviews as part of the admission process, which also requires official transcripts, a personal statement, and two letters of recommendation.
WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) accredits California Southern University.
4. MCPHS University
Founded in 1823 as the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, today MCPHS University offers medical programs from its Boston campus and online. Nurses with an ADN qualify for the RN-to-MSN bridge program with a concentration for family nurse practitioners. A part-time program designed for working nurses, MCPHS incorporates four on-campus meetings and clinical experience that students complete locally. Nursing students spend one year completing the BSN bridge coursework followed by MSN coursework. The curriculum covers advanced pathophysiology, evidence-based practice, advanced health assessment, and family primary care.
Prospective students must hold an ADN from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. MCPHS requires a current RN license and sets prerequisite coursework for admissions. The 62-credit ADN-to-MSN program takes three years as students complete two courses per semester. MCPHS enrolls nursing students for a spring or summer start date.
MCPHS University receives accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
5. Frontier Nursing University
A private graduate school in Hyden, Kentucky, Frontier Nursing University (FNU) dates back to 1939. With its exclusive focus on nursing education, FNU offers an ADN bridge entry option for its MSN program. Nurses with an associate degree spend one year completing BSN coursework before entering the MSN program. Nursing students then choose a concentration such as family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or certified nurse-midwife.
The ADN-to-MSN program offers full- and part-time options as well as three brief on-campus residencies and 675 clinical hours during the MSN coursework. FNU ranks as one of the best ADN-to-MSN bridge programs for nurses considering a doctoral degree in nursing. After earning an MSN at FNU, nurses only need an additional 19 credits to earn a DNP. Prospective students must have an ADN with a minimum 3.0 GPA from an accredited nursing program, and FNU requires at least one year of nursing experience for admission.
Frontier Nursing University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
What to Expect from an ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program
Online ADN-to-MSN bridge programs typically contain the same prerequisite courses needed to qualify for state licensure. However, some details, including the number of clinical hours required, often differ due to schools’ particular standards and state requirements. Also, colleges and universities generally create their own curricula, which may result in alternative course titles or additional distinctive courses.
Admission Requirements for an ADN-to-MSN Program
Nurses who choose a traditional educational path must first earn a BSN to qualify for MSN programs. However, RNs who hold an ADN from a school accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and who are committed to intensive study may qualify for an ADN-to-MSN online bridge program. Generally, colleges and universities seek applicants for these programs who have at least one year of full-time clinical experience and may ask applicants to submit their resume. Students also need to complete a BCI/FBI background check because field experiences will require them to interact with patients.
Other common admissions requirements include letters of recommendation from former professors or managers who can attest to a student’s work ethic and share personal anecdotes. Some online ADN-to-MSN programs also require essays that outline the candidate’s career objectives and interviews (either by phone or in person). Typically, programs look for candidates with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Concentrations Offered for Nurse Practitioners
A concentration in midwifery prepares emerging nurse practitioners (NPs) to service women in need of preconception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care. Job responsibilities include gynecological exams, family planning, and developing birth plans. Midwives also deliver babies and manage high-risk births. Most midwife NPs work for private practices, but some work in hospitals and birthing centers.
Psychiatric Mental Health
Emerging NPs intrigued by mental wellness and care can specialize in psychiatric mental health. In this field, professionals assess and diagnose incoming patients and then create treatment and management plans. Other responsibilities include educating patients’ family members. Graduates join a niche speciality that represents only 2.1% of all NPs.
Orthopedic NPs specialize in musculoskeletal conditions. Practitioners analyze X-rays, prescribe medicine for broken bones, conduct exams on patients, and maintain detailed patient records. These professionals often work in emergency rooms, orthopedic hospital units, nursing homes, or rehabilitation centers. Producing expert diagnosticians, orthopedic programs emphasize clinical examination skills and research.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients prior to certain procedures and then monitor patients while they remain unconscious. Students who complete a nurse anesthetist specialization gain access to some of the most lucrative opportunities for NPs. Most professionals work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, or state facilities.
Sample Courses for an ADN-to-MSN Program
- Issues in Nursing: This course examines ethical, economic, legal, and political problems that impact healthcare delivery for patients and nurse professionals. With an emphasis on the longitudinal nature of modern concerns and trends, course content requires critical thinking and strategy skills. Through discussions, projects, and case studies, students evaluate current professional perspectives.
- Advanced Pathophysiology: Advanced pathophysiology examines how underlying diseases manifest throughout a person’s lifespan. Coursework requires students to identify the environmental, psychosocial, physical, and cognitive factors and characteristics of conditions and diseases. This course emphasizes critical thinking and analytical skills used to debunk pathophysiological mechanisms that lead to effective clinical decision-making.
- Leadership and Health Policy: Leadership and health policy explores the relationship between policy development and research. Students examine information released by the health policy departments to determine implications from a public health perspective. Through case studies, students explore how to improve policies on federal, state, and local levels. This course also covers pertinent principles of organizational change.
- Research and Analytic Approaches to Advanced Evidence-Based Practice: In this course, NP students explore the research process to examine how systematic frameworks correlate with evidence-based practices. Students improve their analytical skills by critiquing published research and developing quantitative or qualitative theories. Additionally, students evaluate literature to uncover applicable clinical practice methods. This course also applies statistical methods and rationales to the analysis of research.
- Diagnostic Physical Exams Across the Lifespan: Students learn about health assessments and the diagnostic history of physical examinations so they may diagnose patients of all ages. This course explores pertinent theories, principles, and strategies from behavioral and physical science to generate complete health synopses. Students evaluate case studies to uncover the best examination procedure methods at different stages of life.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program?
Schools often design their online programs with the working student in mind. Therefore, accelerated program options exist to help students reach their career goals faster. Online ADN-to-MSN bridge programs generally require 36-70 credits, which students complete in an average of three years. However, students should understand that some factors can impact graduation timelines. For instance, programs often include full- and part-time options. Part-time attendance can double program length.
While NP concentrations often require the same number of credits, some specializations may require additional clinical hours. Required clinical hours also fluctuate by state.
Some students’ career objectives require a double major or an additional specialization option, altering the amount of required credits. Double majors may combine an NP program with health administration or an MBA. A popular specialization combination includes gerontology and women’s health, allowing professionals to work with women across their lifespan.
Clinical Component for Nurse Practitioners
All ADN-to-MSN bridge programs, including distance programs, require students to complete clinical hours at an approved facility under the supervision of a licensed practitioner. Many students working for relevant organizations find placement at their job outside of work hours. Schools typically offer assistance with this process.
Both state and individual school requirements vary for the clinical component. In general, students should expect to complete a minimum of 500 clinical hours. Specialty areas may also impact clinical hour requirements. For instance, psychiatric and pediatric nurses often complete 600 hours, while an anesthesiology specialty may require over 2,000 hours.
Can I Complete an ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program Online?
Some online ADN-to-MSN bridge programs may mirror on-campus schedules at schools that have physical locations, which allows students to take courses in person if they choose. Some traditional schools create separate global campuses that operate independently, which provides additional flexibility in program options. For instance, accelerated ADN-to-MSN programs often do not coincide with traditional semesters and operate year-round.
Distance learning formats include synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous courses offer live interaction without in-person requirements, while asynchronous formats allow students to engage in discussion forums and other assignments on their own time prior to deadlines.